10 Jul INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT USED TO INVALIDATE FRENCH ROCK STAR’S WILL
The fate of French rock star Johnny Hallyday’s $112 million estate hangs in the balance due to his Instagram account. Hallyday, who lived in California for approximately ten years prior to his death in December 2017, was survived by his fourth wife and their two adopted daughters. He also had two children from prior marriages.
After Hallyday received his green card in 2014 (he was planning to apply for U.S. citizenship when he died), he had his California lawyer prepare his Will whereby his entire estate went to his surviving spouse and nothing to his biological children. This is not unusual in the United States as there is no requirement that children be named as a beneficiary. However, French law requires surviving children be entitled to a portion of their parent’s estate.
As a result, his biological children applied to a French court to invalidate the California Will by stating he was not a U.S. citizen. They bolstered their argument by using his Instagram account from 2012 to 2017 showing he spent more time in France than in the United States. Hallyday’s widow claimed since he lived in the United States for around 10 years and their children were in school in the United States that the deceased should be considered a U.S. citizen. The French court disagreed ruling that the biological and adopted children and surviving spouse would be beneficiaries pursuant to French laws. The widow has appealed.
One of the morale’s of this story is to be careful what you post on social media. We know that the U.S. government looks at social media such as Facebook to see if someone receiving disability benefits is truly disabled (will elder care attorneys or other attorneys have a duty to advise their clients of the same?) and family law attorneys routinely bolster their cases by looking at the opponents public social media accounts. This case illustrates that social media postings will be used in the estate planning litigating attorney’s arsenal in Will contests to determine issues such as mental capacity, undue influence, residency, etc. that could make a difference in not only who inherits, but which state or country would be entitled to tax dollars.
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